By V.N. Prasad
Bharat and the cricket-lovers across the globe are keenly awaiting the festival — ‘The Festival of Cricket; the ICC World Cup 2023’ — commencing on Oct. 5 (Thursday). While Google, of late, is full of predictions as to the last four on the ladder, the competition looks stiff.
Cricket is a ‘Mind Game.’ One or two wickets in the first five overs, the bowling side is all over the batting side, like a rash. Cautious but confident and aggressive start by openers will leave the bowlers thinking. Irony today is that even a 300-plus chase looks attainable; and that is what we want; close encounters and Net Run Rate (NRR) determining the fate of the best.
Historically, cricket is known to be a game of ‘Glorious Uncertainties,’ and this time it will not be any different. New Zealanders have been the Finalists on both previous occasions. They are an excellent bunch now. Sri Lanka has demonstrated the skills to pull a ‘Rabbit out of the Hat’; in T20 format though.
England is surely a side of extraordinary all-round strength and look favourites. Pakistan matches England in every department; especially their bowling. On their overall strength, both are likely to be on the top four.
India, that is Bharat, has the full potential to blossom; top four batsmen need to provide strong foundation. Bowlers need consistency in line and length. Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer and Suryakumar Yadav should ensure that role. Bowlers need to complement. Mind you, at the 30th over, 2 down at 150 would look far better than 5 down.
How I wish Australia, South Africa and West Indies had the same vigour and vitality of the past. Surely, the contest would have had a better/ interesting edge. South Africa is unable to find competent youngsters to replace the likes of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis, Faf du Plessis, Graeme Smith, JP Duminy, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, etc. Their batting of SA looks a little suspect. Their bowling, Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada, Marco Jansen, on their day, can make best batsmen across board to dance to their tunes.
OZs are an ageing side — devoid of the class of the Steve Waugh, Darren Lehmann, Michael Bevan, Michael Hussey, etc; Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and Cameron Green not consistent at all. They, however, hold a record of lifting the trophy 5 times and twice runners-up. Their bowling strength looks good.
West Indies look all at sea, having made it to the top TEN by the skin of their teeth. But, these guys can be unpredictable; because they don’t take anything seriously — life and cricket.
So, purely by merits, my take is that England, Pakistan, Bharat (India) and New Zealand will be in top four. Dark Horses will surely emerge and silence the Pundits.
We await a great tournament and may the best team lift the trophy.